Whitley Neill gin

Philip Day discusses Whitley Neill gin.

This detailed article about Whitley Neill gin includes details of the company background, the nine botanicals employed within the production of Whitley Neill gin and an overview of the many awards this company has received. 

Whitley Neill Gin

The other evening I was invited round to some friends who live locally to celebrate news of new additions to the family and while we were chatting I was offered a Gin and Tonic. Expecting to taste a proprietary brand, I was surprised by the unusual mixture of botanicals and aromatics it offered to my palate. Taking a good sniff at it, it highlighted a very distinctive floral aroma as well as a mixture of sweet citrus and peppery notes. Taste-wise, overall it had a much softer edge to it than other popular gins on the market with a very smooth experience in the mouth. Subdued juniper and citrus notes are to the forefront with exotic spices counterbalanced by a very pleasant pot pourri of floral notes. It had a surprisingly long dry finish that brought about a subtle diminishing hints of cocoa, candied citrus fruit, particularly lemon and traces of herbs.

I enquired what the gin was and was informed that it came from a bottle of Whitley Neill gin that my friend had been given for her birthday a few weeks earlier. Although I had heard about the brand and had vague recollections of it being recommended as a gin to try, it was my first encounter and a pleasant one at that.

After a very pleasant evening, back at home I jotted down the details of the brand with the intention of researching the brand further.

Whitley Neill is a small batch hand-crafted premium London Dry Gin, independently owned and created by Johnny Neill, a direct descendant of Thomas Greenall  and the last in a long line of distillers, being the eighth generation of the Greenall Whitley distilling family.

Whitley Neill Gin

Johnny Neill founded the Whitley Neill company in 2004 with the aim of offering consumers a new and totally different gin from those already in the marketplace.

The hand-crafted Whitley Neill gin is distilled not under the more usual industrial continuous distillation process but rather in small batches. It is made near Birmingham, from a 100% grain spirit that is steeped with botanicals prior to being distilled in a beautiful antique copper pot still called ‘Constance’ (England’s oldest copper still), named after their master distillers late mother.  Only the smallest best part of the distillate or ‘The heart’ is collected from Constance which subsequently is used to create Whitley Neill gin.

Whitley Neill Gin

On their web site, Johnny Neill relates how his infatuation with gin distilling began:

“My first experience of gin was discovering the collection of bottles sitting under the stairs at my Grandmother’s house, all graced with the Greenall Whitley family name. Being inquisitive, I was eager to learn more about this mysterious liquid that my family had been distilling since 1762. My fascination with gin and its complex distillation process had begun; and under my Grandmother’s expert guidance, I learnt how, by simply infusing the crisp sharpness of juniper berries with a variety of other flavours and aromas, the taste could change dramatically. And for me that was the attraction. I was like an alchemist and from that moment onwards, I was driven to create a blend of gin that captured my family’s passion and something altogether more exotic, enigmatic and mysterious.”

Whitley Neill Gin

Whitley Neill’s tagline: “Inspired by Africa-Crafted in England” sums up the ethos of the blend and goes a long way to hint at what the botanicals used in its creation might be.

Johnny Neill’s wife originates from Africa, a country he’d become intrigued by after being regaled by many evocative tales of that continent told to him by his wife.

She often spoke fondly of the African Baobab Tree, which is known in its native South Africa as ‘the tree of life’ because of its capability for storing water in its wide trunk. It was this tree and its fruit that would become the inspiration for his new gin blend.

“I distilled the tart fruit pulp to release a distinctive citrus flavour, quite unlike any other. And to reflect the role the Baobab tree played in the creation of Whitley Neill, I decided to make its distinctive roots-up silhouette the symbol of our brand.”

A second South African botanical to be employed in the blend was the Physalis Peruviana or Cape Gooseberry as it’s known in South Africa. Originating from Peru the fruit became commonly known as the Cape Gooseberry thanks to its rise in popularity and cultivation in South Africa in the nineteenth century. These flavoursome bitter-sweet berries add a whole new dimension to the aroma of the gin.

In order to make the gin each of the nine botanicals used in the recipe are carefully selected to ensure that they are of the highest quality before being steeped in the grain spirit prior to being turned into distillate. In addition the spirit is diluted by adding only the purest water to reach the required ABV strength.

The list of the nine botanicals employed in the production of Whitley Neill gin are as follows:

Boabab Fruit, Whitley Neill’s signature botanical: It was the tree’s vibrant citrus pulp, with six times more vitamin C than an orange and a soft, ‘grapefruit-like’ taste, that adds an unmistakable burst of flavour and a fresh dimension to the gin.

Cape Gooseberry: The bitter-sweet, juicy berries lend a golden hue to the gin while imparting a further sharp but pleasantly appetising citrus flavour.

Coriander seeds from Russia: These fragrant seeds impart to the gin a gingery, peppery overtone and augment its citrusy nose.

Sweet Lemon and Sweet Orange from Andalucia in Spain: The crisp, fresh lemon and orange peel gives the nose of the gin an invigorating punch, helping to counter-balance the spiciness of the coriander while adding a lift to the aromas of the other botanicals.

Angelica root: Sourced from France , Angelica is an important part of the flavour mix because it complements and binds the other botanicals together, giving Whitley Neill its distinctive smooth, ‘dry’ finish on the palate.

Cassia bark: Harvested in China, Cassia bark is a more ancient relative of cinnamon, which despite emitting a fiery scent, it is in fact a little sweeter than cinnamon. Used sparingly, it imparts a soothing warmth and sweetness to the aroma.

Florentine Iris or Orris root: Imported from Italy the oils from the rhizomes have a soft, fragrant violet aroma. It is used to help balance the spicy sharpness of the citrus and add a hint of sweetness to the flavour of the gin.

Finally, like all gins, London gin should have a predominant juniper flavour, so the ninth botanical comes as no surprise: Juniper berries.

Whitley Neill gin has been a very successful addition to the Gin market, as can been seen by the numerous awards it has amassed over the past decade:

Gin Master, Super premium Category, The Drinks Business Gin Masters Competition 2013

  • Awarded International Wine & Spirit Trophy 2011: Gold Award Trophy. Best in Class.
  • Awarded Gold in the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2011: Best in Class.
  • Awarded Gold in The Spirits Business Awards 2010: Premium Category
  • Awarded Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2009
  • Awarded Gold in the International Review of Spirits by Beverage Testing Institute 2008 Awarded Gold in the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2007: Best in Class
  • Awarded Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2007
  • Awarded Double Gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2007

Interestingly the company was the first UK made gin to take an ethical stance on supporting the long-term development of African farmers and the sustainability of the products they produce.

After an eight-year long commitment to donate money from the sale of each bottle of gin going to Tree Aid in Africa, an international charity that helps villagers in African dry-lands, to help with reforestation, the partnership between the cause and the company since 2014 has blossomed which has included donating an amount equivalent to two Tree Aid training sessions for enterprise groups in Niger on how to market their tree products and link up with possible buyers.

Whitley Neill have not been resting on their laurels however as in addition to their award-winning London Dry gin they have successfully developed a range of flavoured gin blends that are flying off the shelves thanks to their popularity.

Whitley Neill Gin

This range has included the following innovative creations:  Quince, Raspberry, Blood Orange and Rhubarb & Ginger.

Contact details:

Address: Halewood Wines & Spirits,
The Sovereign Distillery
Wilson Road
Huyton Business park
Liverpool L36 6AD

Telephone: 0845 6000 666

e-mail: customer.


Facebook and Twitter: @WhitleyNeill



Please drink responsibly.

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